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07 Feb 2023

DAFF information session: Application to import Xylella cultures for research purposes

You are invited to an information session held by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on 9 February 2023 regarding an import permit application currently being assessed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) for the bacterial pathogens Xylella fastidiosa and Xylella taiwanensis (referred to as ‘Xylella’).

An information session was held in December 2022; however due to technical issues, the meeting link for the event was not delivered on time to all attendees. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused those who registered.

The application is for the import of live and preserved cultures of Xylella into an approved secure biosecurity containment laboratory for research purposes.

The event will be similar to the session held on 9 December 2022, providing you with an opportunity to hear directly from the import permit applicant (the NSW Department of Primary Industries Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, EMAI) regarding the proposed uses and applications of the material, as well as DAFF’s assessment of risks and proposed management measures. We encourage you to attend this event and participate in further discussion even if you were able to attend the first information session on 9 December 2022.

To attend this virtual session, please register via Eventbrite:
You will be sent a calendar invite with login details for Microsoft Teams.

Meeting details:
• Thursday 9 February 2023, 3:00 to 4:30pm AEDT
• Online via MS Teams.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact

Background information
What is Xylella?
Xylella, an exotic bacterial pathogen, is rated as Australia’s number one National Priority Plant Pest. If established in Australia, it could cause significant damage to over 500 species of food and fibre crops and plants of environmental importance and would cost the agricultural sector billions of dollars. Xylella spreads by the movement of infected propagative material and by sap feeding insect vectors. Australia maintains our freedom from Xylella by regulating the entry of plant nursery stock, insect vectors and some seeds.

Why does Australia allow imports of high-risk exotic plant pathogens?
Critical research into new and emerging biosecurity threats is conducted every day in biosecurity containment facilities across Australia. As many of these new and emerging biosecurity threats are exotic to Australia, limited research can be undertaken by importing preserved specimens, extracted genetic material or by travelling to areas where the threat is endemic. However, the most critical biosecurity research, such as developing diagnostic protocols, or testing growth media, involves access to live material. To facilitate Australian researchers’ ability to conduct this work, DAFF regularly issues import permits for live microorganisms, animals and/or plants subject to a range of strict conditions.

Enabling this type of type of research was also key recommendation of the National Xylella Action Plan 2019-2029, to uplift Australia’s preparedness and diagnostic capability in case Xylella was ever detected onshore.

Can the risks be managed?
Should DAFF apply powers under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to grant an import permit for Xylella to enter Australian territory, it will be subject to a series of strict biosecurity measures. When combined, these measures are designed to reduce the level of biosecurity risk to Australia’s appropriate level of biosecurity protection (ALOP).

Conditions that may be imposed include restricting research to only be conducted within a specified biosecurity containment facility, regulating the transportation of goods from the border to the containment facility, restricting who has access to the materials and restricting the type of research that can be conducted.

Biosecurity containment enables DAFF to share the risks associated with the importation of goods with other entities and enable the trade of goods. Effective containment of goods is achieved through a series of measures appropriate to the risk posed by the goods. Measures common in facilities housing high risk plant pathogens include requirements on maintaining the physical security of the site, barriers to prevent the entry of pests such as insects or rodents, regular decontamination of surfaces, requirements on the handling and sterilisation of waste, not removing items or clothing from the site and entering the site via an airlock. To ensure all biosecurity containment sites are complying with our strict requirements, they are subject to regular compliance monitoring and audits.

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